For us at Heyland & Whittle, International Women’s Day means a lot of things; from celebrating the women who are challenging their place in society and in business, to the superwomen running their homes and looking after their families in these strange and uncertain times. The past year has not been easy for many, but today we want to say, “thank you” to the incredible and inspiring women we have around us who continue to amaze, educate, and support us in every way possible.
We are delighted to sit down with our director Ursula Heyland, who is an integral part of the Heyland & Whittle business and making the company and team what it is today.
What has lockdown taught you about running a business?
U: With a lot of changes in company dynamics over the past year, I have had to delve deep into the business to understand the ins and outs of daily activities. Initially my job was very sales orientated, visiting accounts, and being based mainly in the office, but with that taken away, I have had to become more flexible and have learnt to do a bit of everyone else’s job to keep things ticking over.
As a business owner and leader of the company it is important to make decisions every day and follow through with them. I am not talking about making decisions for myself, but for my team, so understanding them and knowing what will keep them safe has been essential in how I run the business.
In essence I have learnt to wear many hats and to be flexible in my skills, which in the long run has been a great learning for me.
What has been the most challenging thing over the past year?
Q: Learning new skills in areas which I knew nothing about such as website development, social media, and marketing – technology in summary. Although challenging, is has been a fascinating journey for me. I enjoy face to face communication with people, and the usual phone calls, but with everything going digital, I have had to learn the basics in technology, to stay ahead in the modern world. Zoom calls for example is something I would have never done a year ago.
I have also learnt I am fascinated with the manufacturing side of the business but now understand how hard and repetitive it is. This has given me great insight into some of the challenges faced by our staff and the effort they put in each day, from hand-pouring our candles to hand-packing each product.
How do you stay positive?
U: I have always been a very positive person and always remind myself; “It’ll be fine”. It is important we know that these things will not last forever. And it’s true, it will always be fine.
I am also very fortunate to have my husband Paddy (Co-Director of Heyland & Whittle) as my rock. If either one of us is feeling a bit down or unsure of something, we always find a way to sort it out between us. Whether it is a business or personal issue, having a strong relationship like this with your other half is important.
This is also translated to the ethos of Heyland & Whittle as we are a solutions-based company, working together for more efficient and effective results and outcomes. It is far better to work together as a team rather than having to deal with something on your own.
What keeps you and your staff motivated?
U: Motivation comes from all things, but especially treat. Having incentives to work towards keeps the team in high spirits. For example, if we meet a specific target at the end of the month, then we treat ourselves with Pizza for lunch! It is great to keep everyone involved with the makings of the business and rewarding them for their hard work and efforts.
Open communication and inclusiveness are also important factors in keeping everyone motivated. Something as simple as keeping everyone updated with information is key, whether it is daily news, business results, or personal stories to share. We are a small but very skilled team, so it is important to keep everyone focused and motivated and not lose that important connection with them.
Do you have any advice to share with other business owners?
U: Stick at it and never give up! And always go with your gut. Even if you don’t get things right the first time, that is okay. Just carry on trusting yourself and what you believe to be right. There is a fear of people asking questions or seeking help and that is also okay. As business owners, we must help each other out so people don’t feel like they are on their own.
Also, I can sometimes feel like I am faced with such a big task, so I sit down and think, “how can I make this more manageable?” Take learning new technology as an example. I found it hard to begin with, but when I started to break it down into more manageable chunks, I felt in control and not as overwhelmed.
What is next for Heyland & Whittle?
U: We are really looking forward to being around people again as shops reopen and the consumer show circuit opens! For us, that is one place we really excel – we just like talking to people. Getting back to shows like the Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court Palace is something keeping us positive and hopeful.
With the launch of our new Heyland & Whittle Eco-Collection, we feel the brand is moving in a good direction in terms of sustainable living. We have had a great response so far with the new collection with sales coming through, but we will not stop there.
We want to carry on improving on every aspect and service we offer, making everything manageable and affordable for the team and lovely customers who have continued to support us. So, for that – thank you.